Proposed gas pipeline in western Queensland would significantly impact vulnerable species, including koala

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The Queensland government is considering approving a 585-kilometre gas pipeline that could significantly affect some of the state’s most vulnerable animals.Key points:The pipeline would run from Aramac to InjuneJemena has applied for a petroleum survey licence, which would allow it entry to 374 properties along the proposed routeAn environmental assessment found the pipeline would significantly…

Proposed gas pipeline in western Queensland would significantly impact vulnerable species, including koala
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The Queensland government is considering approving a 585-kilometre gas pipeline that could significantly affect some of the state’s most vulnerable animals.

Key points:

  • The pipeline would run from Aramac to Injune
  • Jemena has applied for a petroleum survey licence, which would allow it entry to 374 properties along the proposed route
  • An environmental assessment found the pipeline would significantly impact the vulnerable koala

Multinational gas transportation company Jemena has applied for a new petroleum survey licence (PSL) that could lead to the construction of a buried high-pressure gas pipeline from west of Aramac in central-west Queensland to Injune in the state’s south-west.

It would connect Galilee Energy’s Glenaras Gas Project near Aramac to the Queensland Gas Pipeline near Injune.

Jemena first applied for a PSL, which gives it the right to enter the land to survey the pipeline’s proposed route, in 2018.

A PSL is only granted for a maximum of two years.

The company made its latest application for a PSL in November last year which is currently being considered by the state government.

QCH coal seam gas pipeline goes into the ground near Chinchilla in southern Queensland in 2src14.

Jemena says the proposed pipeline’s actual route would “likely only involve around 80 properties”.(

Supplied: BG Group

)

The PSL would allow Jemena entry to 374 properties along the pipeline’s proposed route, but the company said the actual route would likely only affect about 80 properties.

A spokesperson for Jemena said “we will work with a broad spectrum of stakeholders to understand the area and refine the pipeline route”.

Pipeline would ‘significantly impact’ koala

An assessment done by the federal Department of Environment found in October 2019 that the proposed pipeline would significantly impact two endangered and 15 vulnerable species, including the koala.

It found:

“There is a real chance or possibility that the proposed action will adversely affect habitat critical to the survival of the koala,” the assessment said.

Up to 134.54 hectares of koala habitat could be cleared for the pipeline’s construction.

The loss of 20ha of high-quality habitat is considered highly likely to have a significant impact on the species. 

A koala and joey at Taronga Zoo in Sydney on March 26, 2src1src.

The Department of Environment says the proposed pipeline would adversely affect koala habitat.(

Supplied: Taronga Zoo

)

The assessment also found the proposed pipeline would significantly impact 16 other threatened species and ecological communities.

In response to questions from the ABC, Jemena spokesperson said it developed robust environmental management plans for its projects which addressed how it managed local flora and fauna during the construction of a pipeline.

Concerns about water supplies, exports

Central-west Queensland grazier Bruce Currie has urged the government to hold off on assessing the application until it could be certain of the long-term effect on the region’s groundwater.

The proposed pipeline would cross 18 watercourses, which Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries had determined would be at major risk of impact.

A brown river flows through the outback.

Graziers are worried their water sources will be compromised by the expanding gas industry.(

Supplied: Lock The Gate Alliance

)

“Sixty per cent of Queensland is sitting on top of the Great Artesian Basin and it’s the primary source of water for a lot of landowners and communities,” Mr Currie said.

“To put that water source at risk is putting the lives of thousands of Queenslanders into an area of great uncertainty and potential health risks.”

Mr Currie said any water contamination could have a significant impact on meat producers’ ability to sell their product.

“When you sign your [National Vendor Declaration] form, you’re making a declaration that that produce meets certain criteria and is safe to market,” he said. 

“If you sell produce off your property that is contaminated … you could be actually signing a false document.

A man and a woman holding a baby stand in front of two horses next to a drinking trough in the outback.

Bruce Currie wants the government to pause assessing Jemena’s application until it’s certain about the effect on groundwater.(

Supplied: Bruce Currie

)

A spokesperson for Jemena said the company’s role as a gas transportation company, not a gas production company, largely precluded it from commenting on the risks of groundwater being contaminated by gas production.

However, the spokesperson says “the science has shown that gas development can be conducted safely in a well-regulated environment (like Queensland) and we are supportive of this”.  

‘Potentially a national threat’

The conservation group, Lock The Gate, is concerned the pipeline’s approval would give the gas industry the green light for further expansion throughout Australia.

“It may, if it’s approved, open up the Galilee Basin to more intensive gas fields which threaten water, farmland and natural areas,” said the group’s spokesperson, Carmel Flint.

It’s understood no commercial quantities of gas have yet been successfully extracted by Galilee Energy from the Glenaras Gas Project.

As a result, Ms Flint said approving the pipeline would be jumping the gun.

A river is shaded by trees on the riverbank.

The Barcoo River is one of 18 watercourses the proposed pipeline would cross.(

Supplied: Lock The Gate Alliance

)

“We don’t believe the state government should approve this application at this stage,” she said. 

“They’re still having trouble with being able to actually produce gas from that field, even though they’ve been trying for a very long time. 

“So, we think it’s premature to be granting a survey licence over such a vast number of properties when in actual fact there’s no immediate need for it.”

In a statement, the Department of Resources said:

“A relevant environmental authority for the licence must be issued by the Department of Environment and Science before a PSL can be granted,” the statement said.

“In addition to the requirement of an environmental authority, the Department of Resources will assess the company’s ability to safely manage the survey, which includes the applicant’s financial, technical, and managerial capability.”

Jemena said it expected to proceed with an application for an environmental authority “in the coming months”.

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